Hungary’s blockage of a crucial European aid package for Ukraine, right after EU leaders agreed to initiate membership talks with Kyiv, has created significant economic and political ripples within the bloc.
Following a late-night session of the EU Council in Brussels, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban took to social media to announce the veto of additional funds to Ukraine. He expressed intent to revisit the issue in the future, citing the need for thorough preparation. Orban’s stance drew attention, with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte noting Hungary’s solitary opposition among the 27 EU members to the substantial financial aid package for Ukraine, valued at 50 billion euros ($55 billion) according to Reuters.
Rutte remained optimistic, highlighting that Ukraine isn’t facing an immediate financial crisis and expressed confidence in reaching an agreement in the upcoming year. Despite an agreement to resume funding discussions in early 2024, Rutte cautioned that a breakthrough wasn’t guaranteed.
The EU Council’s decision to commence accession talks with Ukraine, after nearly two years as a candidate state, marked a significant milestone. However, Orban distanced Hungary from the discussions around this decision, criticizing it as “senseless” and highlighting Ukraine’s alleged failure to meet essential criteria for EU membership.
Orban’s government, known for its alignment with the Kremlin within the EU, emphasized that Hungary didn’t support the decision and opted out, as 26 other member states pushed forward. He reiterated Hungary’s stance, asserting that Ukraine wasn’t ready for membership negotiations.
In contrast, EU Council President Charles Michel regarded the move as a beacon of hope for both Ukraine and the continent. He also confirmed plans to initiate accession negotiations with Moldova and grant candidate status to Georgia.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky welcomed the development as a victory for Ukraine and Europe, hailing it as a source of motivation and strength. Zelensky underscored the importance of perseverance in the fight for freedom.
This decision to advance formal membership discussions with Kyiv sends a robust message, particularly to Russian President Vladimir Putin, amid concerns of wavering Western support for Ukraine’s battle against Moscow’s incursions.